Preparing for Radioactive Iodine Treatment: A Step-by-Step Guide

Preparing Radioactive

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for certain types of cancer, and radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy is a specific type of radiation that can be used to treat thyroid cancer. If you are preparing for radioactive iodine treatment, it is important to understand the process and how to prepare for it in order to receive the most effective and safe treatment possible.

About Radioactive Iodine

Radioactive iodine is a special type of iodine that is infused with gamma rays that create radiation, which can be used to eliminate cancerous cells in the body. When radioactive iodine is injected, it is attracted to the thyroid and accumulates within the cells. The radiation kills the cancerous cells, preventing further cancer growth and spread.

See also  Understanding Thyroid Disorders in Women: Causes and Treatment Options

Before Treatment Preparation

Before beginning RAI treatment, it is important to take certain steps to ensure the procedure is successful. Your doctor will give you a list of instructions to follow prior to the treatment, which may include:

  • A thyroid scan to locate the cancer and evaluate its size and spread
  • Starting a low-iodine diet a few weeks before the treatment to help the RAI concentrate in the thyroid
  • Avoiding certain vitamins and supplements, as some of their ingredients can interfere with the RAI
  • Being aware of possible side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and skin rash
  • Taking an examination of your urine and/or stool samples to determine thyroid cancer spread outside of the thyroid

The Treatment Process

Before the RAI treatment begins, you will be given a pill to swallow or a liquid to drink which contains the radioactive iodine. You may also receive the iodine by vein in some cases. It is important to stay calm during the treatment, because stressing or tensing can cause the body to absorb the RAI more quickly.

After the radioactive iodine is administered, you will be asked to stay in a safe area until the radiation dissipates. This can take anywhere from 47 to 216 hours and will depend on your individual treatment plan. During this time, you will be monitored to make sure the radiation has dropped to an acceptable level.

Health Benefits

The great thing about RAI treatment is that radioactive iodine is very specific, which means the radiation only affects the parts of the body where the iodine is found. This means that the radiation can target cancerous cells in the thyroid, while leaving healthy tissue and cells alone. Also, due to the method of administration, the radiation is localized, meaning it does not pose any risk of radiation poisoning for people nearby during the treatment process.


If you or someone you know is considering RAI treatment, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prepare for it. This includes following your doctor’s instructions, as well as being aware of possible side effects. By understanding the process, you can ensure that the treatment is effective and safe.